LEIGH Centurions are mourning the death of their life member and former director, Tommy Coleman.

He died within minutes of learning that his beloved Leigh Centurions had been selected as the 12th team to compete in Betfred Super League in 2021.

Tommy, who played amateur rugby league as a young man, ran the Mick Martyn bar at Leigh's former home, Hilton Park, but his passion for the club saw him take on wide and varied roles.

This Is Lancashire:

Fine gents representing Leigh Centurions at Wembley in 2000. From left, Tommy Boylan, Tommy Coleman, Derek Sumner, Bob Shuttleworth, Tommy Sale and Billy Lea

They included, when Hilton Park was showing its age, ensuring the ground maintained all the required safety standards with essential maintenance and building work – and he employed many of the club’s players, including current head coach John Duffy and Tongan forward Tau Liku.

Duffy was employed by Tommy’s building firm after first arriving at Leigh in 2001 from Salford.

He said: “I got a call off Allan, his youngest, a few days ago, saying he was on end-of-life care. It was late on, after 10pm, but I drove down and held his hand for half an hour and told him how much I loved him.

“I was one of the players that worked for Tommy for years with Tau. They were good times and Tommy was the life and soul of the Mick Martyn Bar and then the Sportsman, where he loved a good sing song.

“He was a right character. More importantly he loved his Leigh Centurions to bits! I worked on the old ground for him and he built the newer stand. I have always kept in touch with him because of his personality and the effect he had on my life and my family’s life.

“Without Tommy’s generosity I wouldn’t have been able to buy my first house where my eldest daughter Megan grew up. He was one of a kind and I’m going to miss him dearly. RIP Top Cat.”

Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont said: “I first got to know Tommy when he was a director of the club at Hilton Park when I was sponsoring it.

"He ran the Mick Martyn bar, paying over-generous amounts to do so in his protective nature of the club, as he didn’t want a proposed person to take it over.

"He was the person that persuaded me to get involved, to set up a consortium to take the club over when we did in 2003, so you could say he is responsible for where that sees it now.

“If you cut Tommy in half, he was a bar of rock, it would say Leigh right through him.

"He was honest and would vote that way in board meetings.

"Tommy was a great, funny man, the life and soul of the party and always happy to chuck beers on the team bus. He loved the players and looking after them.

"He was also a charmer and extremely proud of his family, especially his children and grandchildren. He loved Leigh Rugby and attended games till the end.

“It’s rather apt that he made it to hold on until Monday's (Super League) announcement, and that he shed a tear after it, before passing only minutes later.

"It means so much to me to know he passed a happy man knowing the club he loved and contributed so much to had made it.

"Had the announcement not been brought forward I believe Tommy would have made it a couple of days longer to hear it, as he was a battler.

“But he would have known he wouldn’t get further than that and that will have made his day and been a fitting time for him. We will miss ‘Top Cat’ smiling on game day as, despite his deterioration, he always smiled.

"He was always pleased to see me, he was proud of what we put into the club and he always thanked me for it.

“Tommy is a massive part of the history of the club and he will be missed in the Life Members box in 2021 but we will be sure to pay tribute to him when the Betfred Super League gets underway at Leigh Sports Village. Rest in peace Top Cat.”

Duffy was employed by Tommy’s building firm after first arriving at Leigh in 2001 from Salford.

He said: “I got a call off Allan, his youngest, a few days ago, saying he was on end-of-life care. It was late on, after 10pm, but I drove down and held his hand for half an hour and told him how much I loved him.

“I was one of the players that worked for Tommy for years with Tau. They were good times and Tommy was the life and soul of the Mick Martyn Bar and then the Sportsman, where he loved a good sing song.

“He was a right character. More importantly he loved his Leigh Centurions to bits! I worked on the old ground for him and he built the newer stand. I have always kept in touch with him because of his personality and the effect he had on my life and my family’s life.

“Without Tommy’s generosity I wouldn’t have been able to buy my first house where my eldest daughter Megan grew up. He was one of a kind and I’m going to miss him dearly. RIP Top Cat.”